Here’s How To Do a Perfect Plank
When most of us think about core work, visions of cranking out endless crunches come to mind.
According to CA personal trainer Andy Guerin, however, doing an excessive amount of crunches isn’t the best idea…and a strong core is about so much more than achieving a six-pack.
In fact, your abs are more than just one muscle in the first place. The core as a whole also contains muscles in your back, pelvic floor and glutes. All in all, as the pillar of support for your entire body, it may just be your most important muscle group.
“Because core strength is crucial in literally every movement you do, it’s essential for injury prevention,” says Guerin. “It helps stabilize your body in both workouts and everyday activities, plus improves your balance and reduces strain on your back, knees and hips.”
A weak core puts you at an elevated risk of injury (especially in the lower back), and can sabotage your performance in a bevy of other exercises, from deadlifts to pushups.
To build up true core strength, planks are one of the most foundational and powerful exercises out there. Harvard Medical School even calls them “the gold standard for working your core.”
“Planks are great because they activate the entire core, targeting many more muscles than just crunches alone,” says Guerin.
Guerin cautions against overdoing it, since studies show that repeated flexion of the back can cause damage over time. In other words, cranking out crunches can come at the expense of the back — quite the opposite of our goal of injury prevention. Plus, crunches only work a few isolated muscles. Anti-resistance exercises like plank, on the other hand, strengthen more of your core muscles while also protecting your back and neck.
The catch? To get the most out of plank, you have to find total engagement throughout the body…which makes this move significantly tougher! In our culture of prolonged sitting and hunching, it can be pretty challenging for us to keep our bodies in one solid line.
Not to worry — here’s Guerin’s full-body checklist for mastering plank and building true core strength.
- Imagine an orange right under your chin to keep your head fixed in a neutral position.
- Brace your belly button like you’re about to get punched.
- Bring the shoulder blades down, like you’re putting them in your back pocket.
- Make sure your hips are level with the rest of your body, not hiked up or sagging down.
- Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can.
When you generate tension throughout the body rather than just hanging out in plank, you’ll feel an incredible difference. And while you don’t have to do a full-tension plank every single time, it should definitely be part of your routine — in addition to side planks, glute bridges and other core strength exercises that support the whole center of the body.
Note: If this move is too challenging, start by assuming plank position standing up (lifted posture + full-body engagement). Then, gradually make your way to a plank with your knees down. Even with these modifications, we promise you’ll still feel the burn!
Build your core strength with CA
Interested in receiving expert, one-on-one instruction to build core strength? CA’s personal trainers can help! Choose from more than 30 skilled personal trainers across three fitness clubs, with private hour and half-hours sessions available to fit your schedule and budget. Learn more here.